An American startup company is looking to bring commercial supersonic flights almost 20 years after the industry abandoned the technology. Boom Technology, with help from NASA, is attempting to revive supersonic jetliners - allowing passengers worldwide to once again fly faster than the speed of sound.
The last commercial supersonic flight took place about two decades ago, and even then, supersonic flights were only available on a few routes. For airlines to save fuel, most modern jetliners travel slower than they did 20 or 30 years ago.
Boom's CEO, Blake Scholl, appeared on 60 Minutes Monday to discuss the progress his company is making in their ambitious goal of building a supersonic aircraft from scratch. Since the supersonic Concorde was retired, no other private company has attempted to build a supersonic airliner.
The Concorde was jointly built by the British and French governments in 1976. The jet was used in limited routes for three decades before it was grounded due to increased costs, safety concerns, and a deadly crash in 2000.
In the race to build supersonic jets, Boom isn't the only American startup in the running. A company called Spike is also working on a supersonic business aircraft, while another company called Hermeus wants to build a hypersonic plane that can travel at five times the speed of sound. Boom, on the other hand, is the only contestant who has actually built an airplane.
For now, Boom only has a single-seater prototype test plane, which is due to make its first test flight next year. The company wants to perfect the technology before it builds its passenger jet, called the Overture. While the jet still only exists in renderings, several companies have already expressed interest in buying the new plan.
Scholl said they have already received an order of 15 Overture supersonic airplanes from United Airlines. He added that the order is "incredibly validating," and it means that companies are now taking them more seriously.
Scholl estimated that they need about $7 to $8 billion to build the Overture. Unfortunately, that amount is way more than the $300 million the company has raised so far. Money isn't the only stumbling block. Boom and United have said that their new jet would run on 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel; however, such fuel does not currently exist in the numbers required. Boom has also not yet built an engine, and they are currently planning to use a custom jet engine built by Rolls Royce.
The editor-in-chief of commercial aviation publication The Air Current, Jon Ostrower, estimates that the company will likely need at least $15 to $20 billion to achieve its goals. Ostower added that while the challenges may be daunting, it may still be possible for Boom to get its supersonic jet in the air if it gets enough support and interest.